Canadian born Tenille Townes hails from Grand Prairie, Alberta but has lived in Nashville for the past four years. Becoming aware of her music through her recent “ Living Room Work Tapes” EP I was immediately captivated by her distinctive voice and heartfelt writing which often takes inspiration from people and their stories, something my favourite country musicians manage to do so well!
Fortunate enough to catch her playing at the Country Music Hall of Fame in June while I was in Nashville, where she seemed stunned by the incredible reception she received, I wasn’t going to miss a chance to ask for an interview for Belles and Gals!
With a Jay Joyce produced album out very soon ( Jay has worked with many country artists including Eric Church, Little Big Town, Brandy Clark and Ashley McBryde ) Tenille is no doubt an artist we will be hearing a lot more about in the coming months. Big thanks to her for taking the time to answer my questions – Lesley Hastings (twitter.com/lesleyhastings)
1. LH I’d like to start off with congratulating you on your recent Opry debut. Was this something you even dared dream about while growing up in Grand Prairie, Canada, let alone it happening relatively early on in your career? And can you tell me a bit about the experience please, I gather you had family there which must have made it even more special!
TT Thank you for saying that! It was truly such a dream to step in that circle and sing. I have dreamed of that moment for so long!! My grandparents taught me about the Opry and I had been to so many shows as a listener imagining what it would feel like up there someday and it was so special. Sharing it with my family that came was truly so incredible. They have all been a part of this adventure and have been so supportive from the beginning, it meant the world to share this milestone and celebrate it with all of them. I’ll never forget the feeling of watching them get off the escalators at the airport! 140 of them flew in from Alberta to be there!!! They chartered a 737 Canadian North airplane! I still can’t believe it.
2. LH In fact it’s a pretty good time to be Tenille Townes right now, isn’t it, as you’re out on the road with Miranda Lambert ( and Little Big Town!) on her Bandwagon Tour as I type these questions! How is that going, and do you enjoy the big arena experience? I gather it’s just you and your guitar out on those big stages…..
TT I am truly having the time of my life out here on the road. Opening for these heroes of mine and getting to watch their shows every night is such a dream. I am having so much fun!!! And getting to meet people coming out to these amphitheaters after the show is amazing. People have been coming up and telling me stories and it means the world to me to hear them. It is just me up there with my guitar ha! It’s a really big stage but seeing all the people smile in the pit really makes it feel so much more comfy!
3.LH It’s a great way to build your ever-growing fanbase I’m sure, perfect timing as you have your debut album out fairly soon with the incredible Jay Joyce at the helm. How was it working with him, did he bring ideas to the table that hadn’t even crossed your mind? It’s certainly going to have a much bigger sound than your acoustic EP “ Living Room Work Tapes” isn’t it?
TT I’m really grateful we got to begin the sharing of this music going back to the beginning of the way these songs were written, in living room feeling places with just a guitar and a melody! Starting with the heart of the song first. But I truly can’t wait for this record to get out there!!! It was truly an honour to get to work with Jay on this record. He’s such a hero of mine and I look up to his art immensely. In the studio, he taught me so much. Everything was anchored in trusting the process and not being afraid to try anything and everything and I appreciated the way he carefully built sonic imprints around the way I play these songs on my guitar live. Jay is so brilliant.
4. LH What more can you tease us with about the album……for example are there any tracks in particular you can’t wait for us to hear…… and most importantly, is there a release date yet and will there be a tour to follow?
TT I can tell you that Somebody’s Daughter is going to be the lead track and I can’t wait to share that version with you! The record is coming soon and I can’t wait to get out there on the road meeting people following that! The record instrumentation is really fun and anthemic feeling. I hope people feel joy and a sense of belonging to them. And there are a few emotional moments on the record that mean so much to me… there’s a song on the record that brings me peace about my great grandmother that I can’t wait to share.
( LH Just a couple of days after I received this interview the album version of Somebody’s Daughter, the lead single from the album, was released! )
5.LH Going back now to your formative years, which artists inspired you to begin writing, playing and singing? And at what point did you know you wanted music to be your career?
TT At the very beginning, I was obsessed with Shania Twain and I respect and admire her path so much. Early on, I also followed closely along to the lyric booklet of Carolyn Dawn Johnson’s Room With A View record. As things unfolded more, I fell in love with U2, Dolly Parton, Patty Griffin, Lori McKenna and so many others. My grandparents bought me my first guitar at 14 and I started writing then. I think that was when I started seeing music as something I could really do. I loved telling stories and felt like that was the piece of the artistry that made chasing the dream seem real.
6. LH And I gather you moved permanently to Nashville aged just nineteen, making the 45 hour drive from your hometown! Were you excited and scared in equal measure and have you found the musical community in Nashville to be supportive?
TT Moving that far from my comfort zone was definitely scary, but it also motivated me to wake up every day and do the best I could do to work away at it. I had dreamed of living in Nashville for so long, even though I missed home, I knew it was where I needed to be. Where I wanted to be. And I fell in love with the community. Everyone was so welcoming and inspiring. I’d go out and see writers rounds and shows all the time and just was so in awe being surrounded by like minded creative souls who made me want to go home and write more and more songs.
7. LH Can I ask you a little about your songwriting process please, which i understand began in your early teens with you putting your poetry to music. Does an idea and then lyrics still come first ( are you forever making notes on your phone!) or are melodies a trigger factor sometimes?
TT Honestly, I think every song is different. For me, I think it’s a concept, something that happens or that I catch happening that inspires me that starts the wheels turning. Then it becomes something I need to pick a guitar up for to get out. It’s hard to imagine lyrics without imagining where they fall in the melody. I think words and music go together around the same time for me. Songwriting is a lot like being a vessel in my experience…. it feels a lot like a song is moving through you, not necessarily from you, so it has to be about creating an atmosphere where you can listen closely to what you are hearing and feeling. And trusting that whatever comes out is a part of the process.
8.LH And I assume that being Nashville based these days means you co-write a lot more than you have done in the past……is that something you enjoy and find inspiring?
TT I definitely do find it inspiring and I love that it has brought me so many close friends in my life. Sharing that creative space with somebody, is a vulnerable thing and you get to know a lot about a person. I’ve made such close friends in that process. And they all inspire me and teach me so much. It’s fun to be able to talk to somebody and pull things out of each other you might not have thought of on your own. I still write a lot on my own too, but I believe that being surrounded by the co-writers on this creative adventure has helped me learn so much about myself as a writer and a person.
9. LH You definitely seem to be an artist with a huge heart and social conscience that comes out not only in your writing ( “ Somebody’s Daughter “ being a prime example ) but in life too. I gather you organised a fundraiser called “ Big Hearts for Big Kids” when you were back home to support a youth shelter ( and that it has become an annual event) plus you have toured extensively visiting schools ( the “ Play It Forward” tour). Where we find ourselves in the world is often down to fate isn’t it, do you feel that initiatives like these help to keep your feet on the ground and remind you to be thankful for the hand you’ve been dealt?
TT They absolutely do. I’m grateful to have been raised in a home that talked about what was going on in the world around us, and the people’s lives around us. And how we all play a part in looking out for each other, no matter what the hand we are dealt looks like. To me, these projects remind me what music is for and the greater purpose behind what can happen when a song connects a room full of people together. It’s powerful.
10. LH As mentioned at the start of this interview, life seems pretty good for you right now on a professional level, but what is still on your bucket list as an artist?
TT I’m so grateful for these adventures that are happening right now. I’m truly having so much fun!!! I can’t wait to get the record out there and travel and meet people around the world!
11. LH And are there any plans to visit us here in the UK anytime soon……we love our country music here as I’m sure you know!
TT I can not wait to come visit you guys!!!!! I’m truly looking forward to it so so much.
LH Well I’m sure you’ll get a fantastic welcome over here…..hope to see you soon and I’m so excited about the upcoming album! Thank you for this great interview!
More information can be found at tenilletownes.com which also includes links to all Tenille’s socials.